Renewable Energy and Innovation

Here’s a quick refresher on a useless fact that hasn’t changed in the past 3.5 billion years:
All life on Earth only exists due to our sun.

Yeah, the big yellow thing in the sky that hurts you eyes when you open the window after spending a couple hours moping around in bed. That thing.

Anime character moping in bed

The sun gives us energy, and that’s neat. But the first things to actually use that energy were plant-thingies. (They were technically proto-organisms, but I’ll just call them plant-thingies.)

Anyways, the plant-thingies figured out a way to take the sunlight and use it to make usuable energy by combining it with stuff they absorbed (nutrients and water.) With this free and plentiful energy the plant-thingies lived in happy equilibrium with the sun.

Happy Plant

And then a shocking development happened:

Doggo Murdering Plant

The food web formed. It’s an all-hell-breaks-loose state of chaos where the more powerful things kill the weaker things. The food web can be simplified down into a bunch of linear paths where the “energy” goes between things (AKA: what eats what) and the end result is something like this:

The Food/Murder Web

Making Stuff Do Stuff

Someone eventually had this idea to make stuff use energy and do stuff for us. After all, while it’s nice to eat food for energy to do work, it’s even better to eat food and not do work.

We ended up creating tools that maximized our energy input for more output and started automating things. For example, instead of hauling big logs on a boat downstream we could just let the logs float downstream.

A long time ago people made a huge discovery and found a way to burn stuff and release its energy, leaving only leftover carbon. That discovery is the discovery of fire. I know, exciting.

By throwing useless stuff like small bits of wood or killed enemies into a pit of fire we were able to release that energy to do useful stuff like cook meat. Fire released raw light-heat energy which helped ward away most nighttime predators and it provided useful energy for a relatively cheap price of some wood and rocks.

Discovery of Fire 15 MYA Colorized

Somewhere in the 90s we found out that burning fossil fuels was more efficient than wood. Fossil fuels release lots of energy and burn much longer.

Fast-forward a hundred years and not much has changed.

Chart of our energy reliance on shitty fossil fuels

We are still using a lot of fossil fuels and they won’t last forever. When that +70% extinguishes (slowly, but it’ll eventually go out) we need to make sure we don’t plummet into some new Dark Age without enough energy to sustain ourselves.

Plus, fossil fuels release tons of carbon dioxide, and carbon dioxide is causing global warming. And global warming is very bad.

Global Warming Graph

By 2100 all the oceans will be vaporized.

Renewable Energy

So far we have solar, hydro, wind, and geothermal power. And right now everybody is working on setting up as many solar panels and windmills as possible to give us more renewable energy. (Some countries are even aiming for zero carbon emissions by 2020.)

Gif of field of grass because that's what clean energy supposedly does

This is definitely a work-in-progress, but more and more countries are taking the hint.

Innovation Makes Shit Better

We constantly try to make stuff that isn’t broken get better. (And sometimes we end up breaking it somewhere along the way.)

We’d like to think that we make stuff better because it’s our nature to do so, but it really isn’t. If we want humanity to survive a couple hundred more years we need to change the way we are headed in terms of energy reliance and usage.

How Innovation Has Been Going ‘Naturally’

Natural selection was how innovation originally happened. But that’s pretty slow because all natural selection does is say that things that are better will live longer than stuff that isn’t. It relies on variety and randomness, which doesn’t fit well with making something like a hammer because hammers don’t breed, mutate, or make offspring.

Comic of Natural Selection

Why We Innovate Now

There are two things running our will to innovate.

Greed/Ambition – Call it whatever you want, but we want to create a positive-sum game where everybody benefits without losing anything. And until we get the maximum “little effort, high gain” in every aspect of our lives we won’t be satisfied.

Government/Law – If there’s a project that has no funding or public support nobody is gonna work on it, like cold fusion. However, if lots of people start funding it (like when MIT admitted their research on cold fusion was somewhat flawed) lots of people will pour in and work on it. Whether or not cold fusion is a hoax is a completely different topic altogether, but people like to work when they actually get stuff in return.

Big Goals We Are (Greedily) Chasing After

-Everybody gets stuff, nobody loses stuff.
-Everybody does minimal work.
-Everybody does maximum “fun” stuff. Like having sex, as a near-immortal cyborg.
-World peace.
More cyborg sex.

Okay, fine, I’ll admit, not everybody is actually aiming for cyborg sex, but I’m just throwing mine in there because we should totally be more invested in it.

Humans Have Innovated Shit for a Long Time

Remember when we were all doing this?

Butt-naked cavepeople attacking mammoth.

Yup, the good ol’ days.

Tis’ it was a much simpler time. We were just beginning to talk and share information with each other more efficiently. Not only that, but we were also running around butt-naked killing woolly mammoths.

Anyways, flash forward some +6,000 years; now we’re in a civilized society.

Chart of energy usage in 2010

We evolved into the modern human around 200,000 years ago and only became civilized somewhere in the past 6,000 years. And we only started industrialization about 200 years ago.

Humans Civilization Graph Thing

Neo Explains Your Brain in Probably the Most Non-Scientific Way Possible

We haven’t been “civilized” for very long. Our bodies are still made for what we used to do. We still have hair for keeping us warm during harsh winters, small tailbones for non-existent tails, and most importantly, ancient brains designed to live in the caveperson age.

Our minds haven’t evolved to fit in the modern era, which is why we still have primal traits and obsolete parts of our brains.

Fake MRI Scan Joke Thing

The TTKYA/Reptilian brain (thing that keeps you alive) is stuff like your medulla and brain stem. It’s the thing that makes your heart beat and your lungs breath involuntarily. It’s also the thing that makes you pull your hand away from the stove when you accidentally touch it. The TTKYA’s purpose is to keep you alive.

The ATSTKYA/Limbic System (ancient thing supposed to keep you alive) is the thing that tells you that you should be sleeping. Or it might tell you that the berry you ate last week gave you some pretty bad diarrhea and killed off half your tribe, so you should give some to the enemy tribes as a gift.

The ATSKYA isn’t really smart and it is the thing that carries basic reflexes and responses. But instead of taking care the breathing, eating, and shitting; the ATSKYA uses the TTKYA’s stuff and makes it better. The very basic power to use memory and emotion is what separated man from the poop-throwing monkeys 200,000 years ago.

The SOAT/Neo-Cortex (some other ancient thing) is the thing that helps you add and subtract. It also has your personality and some other stuff. It is the more recently developed part of the brain and is what told us to make tools and start growing civilization. This thing takes the ATSKYA’s stuff and makes it better. (It turns senses and simple thinking into complex thinking, emotions, and reasoning.)

This whole brain is called the Triune Theory, and it’s a much easier way to divide the super-confusingness of the brain into three simple parts that work together.

Triune Brain Theory

The basics is that the blue part (part that keeps you alive) formed first, and then the yellow (part that makes use of the blue part’s shit to give basic thinking) formed later, and then the green part (part that makes use of the yellow part’s shit to give complex emotions and thinking) came in and wrapped around everything like it owned the place.

The Goal of Life

When living things were just mice running away from lions we had one simple goal:

We wanted to have crazy amounts of babies in hopes they’d survive. If the weak died it didn’t matter as long as some of the offspring survived.

The “weak die” idea also contributed to strengthening future generation’s genes because only the strongest survived to pass on their genes, AKA: natural selection.

Humans weren’t able to escape this need, either. Before medicine and science reached an okay-ish phase lots of children didn’t make it to adulthood. Our solution was simple: make a ton more babies. The tactic had worked with mice so it worked fine with humans.

People ended up having four-to-six kids in hopes that at least one of them could make it to adulthood. And those lucky ducks would do the exact same thing.

But when we found ways to make people live longer with better medicine and technology we realized that we didn’t need as many babies anymore because they required lots of energy to care for. (And six wailing babies would probably get you a noise complaint.)

We gradually toned down the baby-making and started using things like vaccines or penicillin to have stronger and longer-living people without the whole “the weak shall die” doom and gloom of the previous era.

Anyways, our priorities have shifted and now we are living in a modern civilized society. The “pass on your genes” thing is much easier and safer now so we don’t really need to worry about this too much. Of course, future generations will get better than the previous one and at the rate we’re advancing we might end up advancing too fast to even look behind us anymore.

The Old Social Norms

When we were surviving off of nutritious rocks and twigs we had some very simple rules to follow.

1 – LiveGrilled Bear

2 – Don’t die

3 – Stay in a tribe

If you were good at stuff you’d have some sort of higher rank in the tribe. Screwing up your social life could reduce your rank. And your rank determined everything.

Suddenly, the most respected member of the tribe would get smaller food portions, people would hate them, and eventually they’d get left behind and die alone in a cruel world.

Having a bad social status could mean death, so it was best if everybody just stuck together and didn’t try to be jerks.

This fear of “death-by-a-shitty-social-life” is in your limbic system (the ATSTKYA.) So it’s completely natural to think you’re gonna die in the middle of a presentation.

Your limbic system still sounds the false alarm so you still get sweaty palms, nervous jittering, and that feeling you get when you’re trying to take a crap but nothing is coming out.

The New Social Norms

Our social norms are much different than the caveperson era.

With better medicine and technology people can really just do whatever. And so began the hellish world of self-interested individualists.

Funny Meme That Probably Isn't Actually that funny

However, this doesn’t mean that all societies have the “individualistic shit is better” theme. I mean, in Japan people conform to avoid being singled out. (Bullying and suicide is a big problem.) But this doesn’t mean Japan is one big homogeneous country. It just means that being individualistic in certain parts of your life (people can have their own quirks without being singled out) is okay. Conformity is certainly a thing, but not at a crazy-dystopian-hell level.

Point is, different places have different social norms. But if you want to be social, you don’t need to be so utterly terrified.

Just get out there and express yourself in ways that your environment safely allows you.